Hurricane Maria, Six Months Later: Donors Respond to Dominica’s Need for Repairs to Homes and Schools
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (March 28, 2018) The scars of Hurricane Maria still are evident in Dominica where a patchwork of blue tarps dots the landscape.
Food For The Poor donors have continued to send critical aid to the island to help those struggling without food, water and basic necessities.
The future also looks brighter for families whose homes are being repaired, thanks to a generous donation from United Way of Miami-Dade.
The urgency of finishing those repairs comes as a new hurricane season is less than three months away, bringing new worries for those struggling to recover from Maria's devastating blow six months ago.
The United Way donation covered the cost of zinc and lumber to repair the damaged homes.
"The lives of thousands of people have been turned upside down because there's no electricity and countless homes have been damaged or destroyed," said Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood. "The people of Dominica refuse to give up. And thanks to our wonderful donors, this organization will not give up on them."
About 5,000 residents displaced by the storm are living with friends and relatives or in shelters. Material to repair or rebuild homes is scarce for the poor who were vulnerable even before the storm hit. For most people, generators are the only way to power lights and cooling fans until electricity is restored.
Many schools remain in need of repairs. Because of the damage, some students attend classes in shifts because the sections of schools that are usable cannot accommodate everyone.
Six schools in Dominica will be repaired and receive new furniture, thanks to the generosity of the Miami Foundation and its donation to Food For The Poor.
Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, 2017, with Category 5-strength winds of 160 mph, wiping out tourism and agriculture, two mainstays of the country's economy, and destroying many businesses. About 40 percent of Dominica's 74,000 residents fled the island after the storm.
Still, the people of Dominica are resilient and remain hopeful.
"We bounce back quickly," said Sister Henrietta Pond, of R.E.A.C.H (Reaching Elderly Abandoned Citizens Housebound), the charity's partner in Dominica.
"Dominica has come a long way after the hurricane," Sister Henrietta added. "The streets have been cleaned up properly. You can see the hope in the eyes of the people, hope in the eyes of the whole nation. But there are still quite a lot of houses covered with tarpaulins."
Food For The Poor has shipped 90 containers of aid to Dominica since the storm. That's about three times what Food For The Poor sends to the island nation in an entire year.
Items included commercial-grade and standby generators, tarps, flashlights, batteries, canned goods, water, diapers, hygiene kits, zinc sheets and nails, roof straps, ridge caps, lumber, plywood, folding beds and mattresses, student desks and chairs, desks for teachers, canned food, MannaPack rice meals, evaporated milk and rice.
The supplies provided by Food For The Poor's donors and partners have reached 28 communities comprising about 15,000 people in Dominica.
Earlier this year, the charity delivered a heavy duty forklift capable of lifting empty containers to help reduce congestion at the port and unload aid faster in Dominica's tiny port.
"The help we have received has been way beyond our expectations," Sister Henrietta said. "We are so grateful to Food For The Poor. Because of the generators, people can refrigerate their medications. They can have lights in their house, trying to make life as normal as they can."
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance.
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